|Authors holding up the books they would send to prisoners - demonstrating opposite Downing Street, 27.6.14.|
I was a Special Needs teacher for 25 years and have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people from ages five to adult who have struggled to master reading. All of them wanted books - to look at, to have read to them, to hold, to love, to admire and to help them become independent readers.
|Mark Haddon and Ruth Padel|
In November 2013 The Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, banned the sending of book parcels to prisoners, initially saying that books are a perk and privilege they must earn. But after a massive outcry including a campaign lead by the Howard League for Penal Reform and English PEN involving some of our most influential writers, it was then stated that - drugs are smuggled in through book parcels - and -
well, prisoners can't read anyway, so why do they need books?!?
Well that just waved a massive red rag in the face of we authors.
There are plenty of books which would be suitable for prisoners with reading difficulties, as I pointed out. We authors are writing them and publishers such as Barrington Stoke are actively extending their catalogue, let alone all the graphic novels and even books without words but with high interest value, which would be perfectly accessible to all prisoners. Many children's authors and Y.A. authors are writing books which would be eminently suitable. We all agreed, together with Mr Khan, that having books in the cells is not a 'perk or a privilege' as Mr Grayling advocates - but an essential informal educational tool which actively works towards rehabilitation.
As David Hare commented, "If this is an incentive system, who has won the prize of more books?"
A small group then took a letter to hand in to the Prime Minister to draw his attention to our ongoing Books for Prisoners campaign and to ask for his support.
Our letter to Mr Cameron pointed out that in April 2014 we requested a meeting with Mr Grayling to discuss our concerns and "we were extremely disappointed that Mr Grayling did not agree to our meeting."....."We strongly urge you to reverse this harmful policy at the earliest opportunity."
We need more books in prisons.
AUTHORS - You could help by donating copies of your books to a wonderful new initiative at Wormwood Scrubs where book rooms for prisoners are being set up by volunteers.
To find out more, email Victoria at Give a Book : firstname.lastname@example.org